#1 Sam Mullane
#2 Lane Co. DA Alex Gardner
#3 Mullane house and garage-foreground
#4 Side/Rear garage where Mullane was shot
Click on photos to enlarge
Lane County District Attorney Alex Gardner today cleared all four OSP SWAT team members of any criminal behavior in the shooting death of Sam Mullane, 18, of Ten Mile Road on May 31st.
Gardner said that Mullane emerged from his home carrying a deer rifle and a flashlight and that he shined the light on at least some of the SWAT members, prompting them to yell out that they were police and for him to drop his rifle. Gardner said Mullane yelled obscenities at them and then began to move toward and behind a garage, leaving the SWAT members out the the open with no cover. “Since it was obvious that Mullane was not going to comply,” Gardner said, “the officers had no choice but to remove any chance that Mullane could begin firing his rifle at them.” They opened fire on Mullane. Moments later he was dead from wounds to his back and a leg.
Gardner said the tragic series of events began soon after the SWAT team arrived on Ten Mile Road, on the back side of Cape Perpetua. The road is just inside the Lane County line. SWAT had learned that two suspects in an earlier beating in Yachats, which involved a firearm, were hiding out at Sam Mullane’s inherited house at milepost 12 on Ten Mile Creek Road. SWAT had a search warrant for the arrests of two men inside; Matthew Hubeny, 27, and Justin Wood, 25, both from Yachats.
One contingent of law enforcement set up a staging camp at milepost 7 while the SWAT Team went on ahead toward Mullane’s home to do preliminary surveillance ahead of what was to be a full SWAT assault on the house. Gardner said those inside the house were armed and that they conducted armed night patrols around the property. Unexpectedly one suspect and a female got into a vehicle and drove farther up the road seeking a spot that their cell phone would work. Police said the two spotted them and quickly turned around and headed back to the house to tell the others that police officers were nearby.
Unfortunately, the SWAT Team that eventually came onto the Mullane property did so right after the man and woman had returned to tell the others about what they saw. Unbeknownst to the SWAT Team (because they were out of cellphone and radio range) they didn’t know that their cover had been blown. It’s at that fateful point when Mullane emerged from the house holding the deer rifle and a flashlight. Gardner said the rifle was pointed straight up – at no time was it pointed in the SWAT team’s direction nor was it fired. Upon SWAT officers ordering Mullane to put down his gun, Mullane turned around and began walking away to a point behind a nearby garage. Knowing that Mullane could have possibly sought cover from which to fire at them, they opened fire on him first. SWAT officers then grabbed the badly wounded Mullane and pulled him around to the side opposite the house for cover, knowing that those inside were armed. Mullane died a short while later.
Soon after, the rest of the SWAT Team surrounded the house and yelled for those inside to come out. Beating suspect Matthew Hubeny emerged and was taken into custody. Another order for the other two to come out was met with silence. SWAT officers then crashed a window with a tear gas bomb and entered the house. They found the girl in a back bedroom. Suspect Justin Wood was gone. Officers said he apparently had run out the back door before full containment of the area had been established. Wood was captured a few days later walking along a logging road near Yachats.
Eugene Police Detective Jeff Doneca was asked whether the earlier assault in Yachats, although severe, warranted a SWAT response. Doneca said he could not speak for OSP SWAT but from his experience in the Eugene Police Department, EPD SWAT would have responded to such an incident. Doneca was asked whether it would have been safer and less confrontive to simply have waited at the bottom of Ten Mile Road for the suspects to come off the mountain, on their way into town, where they could have trapped them with a full-out guns-drawn felony stop. Doneca responded, “We simply do not have the manpower to camp out and hope we get lucky.” Other law enforcement officials had earlier told News Lincoln County that the suspects, being armed, would have exposed the motoring public on Highway 101 to potential deadly pistol fire, making it a poor option. And since Ten Mile Road is heavily traveled (one way in and one way out), any interception attempt by SWAT, even up a bit from the highway, could have been compromised.
Gardner said that the three SWAT officers were heavily emotionally impacted and deeply saddened by what happened. Gardner added, however, that based on SWAT protocol, which does not rely on second guessing people with guns, it put them in an impossible situation. And so three of the four SWAT officers opened fire on Mullane before he could get behind the garage.
Gardner provided the names and SWAT experience of each of the SWAT team that opened fire on Sam Mullane:
Senior Trooper David Stone, 47, 15 years OSP
Joined OSP July, 1997
SWAT member 10 years
Involved in 3 shootings, two fatal
Senior Trooper Jamin VanMeter, 36, 12 years OSP
Joined OSP August, 1999
SWAT member 4 years
Involved in 2 shootings, two fatal
Senior Trooper Casey Codding, 35, 12 years OSP
Joined OSP July, 2000
SWAT member 8 years
Involved in 3 shootings, two fatal